Remote Private Networks (RPNs): Strengthening Home Network Security for the Modern Workforce

In the intricate world of cybersecurity, IT managers are continually tasked with ensuring the safety of their organisation’s data, especially with the rise of remote and hybrid working. Remote Private Networks (RPNs) are emerging as a solution to upgrade what’s already in place, offering a refined approach to home network security that complements existing measures.

RPN vs VPN: A Strategic Overview

Most IT managers are familiar with Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which have long been a staple for encrypting data transmitted over the internet. They’re essential for remote workers accessing company resources, providing IP masking, data protection in transit, and even geo-restriction bypassing. Their primary function, however, is to secure data as it travels between two points, typically from a user’s device to a company server.

RPNs, on the other hand, focus on the environment from which data is accessed. They establish a separate network within an existing infrastructure, isolating specific devices or tasks. This ensures that even if a device on the broader home network becomes compromised, the devices within the RPN remain secure.

The Strategic Benefits of RPNs for Organisations

For IT managers overseeing complex network infrastructures, understanding the benefits of network segmentation is crucial:

  1. Enhanced Security: An isolated network significantly reduces the risk of lateral movement. If a cybercriminal gains access to a device on the home network, they’re prevented from accessing devices on the RPN.
  2. Optimised Performance: Fewer devices on a segmented network lead to reduced network traffic, ensuring smoother performance for mission-critical operations.
  3. Efficient Troubleshooting: Identifying and resolving issues on a segmented network becomes more manageable with fewer devices and potential conflicts.

Addressing VPN Limitations

While VPNs are a robust tool in the IT manager’s toolkit, they have limitations. They don’t shield users from threats from other devices on the same network. For instance, a compromised smart device on a home network could serve as a launchpad for attacks on other devices. RPNs offer a solution to such lateral threats.

Moreover, consider the potential risks other people or family members pose at the same address. It’s not uncommon for individuals to unknowingly have compromised software on their personal devices. These devices can become tools for threat actors to exploit vulnerabilities in the network. Additionally, with the rise of amateur hacking, driven by curiosity, there’s a potential risk from young family members or even neighbours. Their exploratory endeavours, while not malicious, can inadvertently create vulnerabilities.

The Router Firmware Dilemma

One of the often-overlooked aspects of home network security is updating router firmware. Many users, unaware of its importance, neglect this task, often falsely believing that the ISP takes care of this for them. Even when the press, suppliers and IT departments issue advisories, the frequency of updates remains sporadic at best.

But the challenge doesn’t end with updating. Even when firmware is updated, manufacturers sometimes don’t address vulnerabilities in the underlying software libraries. This oversight can expose networks to known threats, even if the surface software appears up-to-date. For IT managers, this presents a challenge: ensuring remote workers not only update their routers but also have routers that are genuinely secure post-update. RPNs, with their emphasis on segmentation, offer a layer of protection against potential threats that might exploit these underlying vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

The evolving landscape of remote work necessitates solutions that address its unique challenges. RPNs provide a dedicated digital space for work-related tasks, ensuring that personal devices and the broader home network remain uncompromised. For IT managers tasked with safeguarding organisational data across diverse environments, RPNs offer a complementary layer of security, reinforcing the protective measures already in place.